Here’s the head from today’s Sun:

Liberals

.

Here’s the actual wording:

“Surrey is well placed to secure B.C.’s first funding commitment under the Liberal plan.”

And in that subtle wording – “well placed” –  is more evidence of the damage being done by the referendum.

The Conservatives also want to pledge billions to Surrey for light rail.  The Province too – only key people in Victoria would prefer, it is said, a SkyTrain extension down the Fraser Highway.  But none of them can actually commit the money until Surrey can come to the table with one-third of local funding.

But guess what?  Surrey can’t.

Oh, it’s trying.  I hear rumours of casinos, value capture, whatever might be needed to fulfil a unilateral election promise. So far, it appears that the numbers don’t add up.

Normally, the one-third would be a commitment of regional dollars from TransLink.  But not now, at least not by cutting a huge hole in its budget which accommodates only the current level of service and, because of the referendum, has no source of money to spend on capital expansion at that scale, without penalizing everyone else in the region.

Of course, if Surrey wanted another big bridge or widened highway, no problem.  The Province would possibly cover all the capital. But transit?  If the Province covered both its and the municipality’s capital costs, it would be using dollars from taxpayers throughout B.C.  And the Premier would have to explain to the citizens of West Kelowna why they should help pay for Metro transit after Metro citizens voted not to.

Let’s see what Peter Fassbender comes up with.  No matter who gets elected to Ottawa, there are big bucks looking for a place and a way to land. With, so far, no obvious way to do so.

Comments

  1. This announcement by the federal Liberals was made “a day before another news conference was scheduled by the Liberals on West Broadway” presumably for the Broadway subway. If that’s the case, then Bravo!

    For years the federal government has remained semi-detached from its own urban constituents with the exception of occasional funding of selective transit projects. Should Trudeau win, probably in a coalition with the NDP, this will also be a win for communities on both sides of the Fraser, and a repudiation of the motives of the provincial government to create their own funding escape clause in the form of a plebiscite only for transit. In essence, the feds would step into the vacuum created by Christy.

    Should these announcements pan out and the planning and design begin, then watch for Jordan Bateman et all to try to paint these projects as anti-democratic after the local No vote. Of course it will be pointed out to the CTF that the No side was not against transit per se, but was against the “fat cats” of TransLink, its imaginary bad management (though its bad PR skills were real enough) and an extremely negligible (but nonetheless definable) tax increase. But trying to paint the feds with the same brush may not work because transit, unlike roads, is a very good investment with a measureable return, the Liberals / Lib-Dems will not have been in power long enough to be proven “bad” in practice, and the tax load will be spread very thinly across the entire nation to three oceans, probably equivalent to a couple of double shot Canadianos a week to most citizens.

    Moreover, if the federal Liberals / Lib-Dems attain government and the urban infrastructure policies survive the election, they will likely encompass similar transit projects in a host of other cities. Not even Bateman can argue against the massive power the feds have to pool procurement contracts from several projects in several cities into a few and impose unprecedented negotiating power on vendors who will be salivating at such large contracts. Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, New Flyer, Nova, etc etc will be plotting against each other to gain a large foothold in North America, or to par down their prices. The feds could thus bring drastically decreased unit prices and beefed up socio-economic benefits (e.g. building bus, train and parts plants in Canada and employing Canadians). And they can also negotiate financing terms more favourable than any province, city or private consortium could by themselves.

    This comment thread could diverge into yet another debate on the merits of a subway down Broadway, but one overlooked merit is not just the potentially very high ridership and quality of service to Broadway’s significant employment centres, but to creating a much more generous and higher quality pedestrian realm and urban design treatment on the surface.

    1. Are you assuming there would not have to be a local component – likely 30 percent – to match federal and/or provincial contribution? If there does need to be local money, from where? That’s Surrey’s dilemma.

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      1. The Sun article says “Trudeau said his party would quadruple the Conservatives’ infrastructure investment program and put nearly $20 billion in “new dollars” into transit infrastructure over the next decade.”

        If the federal government puts this much additional money towards transit, then I suspect this could decrease the amount of local funding needed to get projects off the ground. For example, perhaps the federal government would now be willing to kick in 50%, on top of the provincial government’s 33%, meaning the local governments or Translink only need to provide the final 17%. If an arrangement like that is possible, then it would definitely improve the likelihood of these projects getting off the ground.

      2. If the Greens have any sway in the election, then they may insist that action on climate change has been delayed far too long and that the feds need to play a leadership role in funding transit, then put their confidence vote(s) on the line. However, the NDP are also promising “real action” on climate change and transit, what ever that may be, and one could interpret that as meaning a greater transit funding proportion than that taken by the feds under Harper. In some ways Trudeau’s announcements could be a continuation of Paul Martin’s agenda for cities which never saw the light of day after Jack Layton decided to take him down and we got a decade of Stephen Harper as the result.

        Essentially, three parties out of four are now vying for greater participation on this one policy, though it remains to be seen what their actual differences will be once the election dust settles.

    2. Yeah, I don’t think that there’s really been any serious question that the Feds and the Province would each pay their 1/3 of the projects – it’s the local municipal / regional (i.e. TransLink) 1/3 that is the issue.

      1. That has always been the situtation. But Trudeau has all but promised to increase the fed’s share of funding while respecting local input on design and technology. This presumes a smaller local share — unless the province lowers theirs. On that I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Any idea that either of the two Montreal boys running for the big job would quickly move to finance a couple of rail projects in little Vancouver, before considering the requirements of Montreal and massive Toronto is fanciful. Montreal is home to Bombardier and SNC. If Tommy wins he will want to lavish Quebec City, where the Conservatives have often done well. He will also want to win over vote-rich Anglo Quebec in West Montreal, that is just about always solid Liberal country. Both of them will also be thinking of how to solidify their presence and win over the huge 905 around Toronto.

    Transit and trains are fun but the corporate friends and voters sympathies are always more important than anything else.

    It is impossible to contemplate a PM from Quebec/Montreal not taking care of the highly active Quebec voters and companies, first.

    As has always been the case under federal Liberal governments, Vancouver will have to wait for a second mandate and then, only if Vancouverites vote for the right party.

    1. We’ve had a PM based in Western canada for almost a decade and the same can be said about him. Public transit input from the current federal government has been spotty at best, blatantly partisan at worst. On that last point, I think it was no mistake that Trudeau purposely stole Harper’s thunder with an early announcement in Surrey.

      The Liberals would increase the federal share quite dramatically, but still not to European standards where transit mode share often tops 50%. The NDP have promised to give cities an extra cent of the fuel tax for infrastructure, but their transit commitments are vague other than promosing to “partner” with provinces and cities, essentially the same policy as today, but with perhaps a greater inpetus to do more for their urban voters.

      At this stage in the campaign I’d place the Liberals slightly ahead on the transit file with respect to increased federal participation. However, no party is doing nearly enough to assuage long-range planning issues regarding reducing unsustainable auto dependency dramatically by mid-century.

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